You may be turned off by the alarmist tone of my next sentence, but I mean every word of it. This blog is about a “Christian” worldview, which is one of the most ill-defined, fastest growing and potentially, most deadly theology of any I’ve encountered. And your children or grandchildren may actually believe it!
A few years ago, I served on Spiritual Formation Task Force for a local Christian high school and I was given a book by Christian Smith, entitled, Soul Searching. Under a major grant from the E.I. Lilly Foundation, Dr. Smith, a Christian sociologist, at the University of North Carolina and his team conducted hundreds of face-to-face and phone interviews to find out what American teens really believed about God.
His findings were startling to me. But the more time I spend with college students and 20 something “Christians,” even in conservative churches, the more I’m convinced his research is right on. And, his findings explain why the faith of our fathers is not the faith of our children. Here’s a summary of what he found and at the end of this blog are some questions to help you dialogue with them. There are two primary groups in America, who call themselves Christians. They can be in any denomination. Pay careful attention to the differences in how each views the purposes of God and the responsibility of Christians.
My life belongs to God. Because God is my creator and I’ve been rescued and redeemed by Christ, I now belong to him and the primary purpose of my life is to love him and make life better for others. God is my life! Speak Lord your servant is listening.
My life is my own. I believe in God and am grateful that Jesus died for me. I go to church to stay connected with him and learn more about how to live a better life. God’s primary job is to help guide me through life and he’s always there to help me handle life’s problems.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) This second worldview is what Dr. Smith calls, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). It’s a counterfeit-spiritual adaptation and really isn’t Christian at all. The tragedy is that this counterfeit appears to the pre-dominate “Christian” worldview held by the majority of teenagers and young adults in the U.S. today.
The creed of this religion, as it emerged from our hundreds of interviews with Christian teenagers, sounds something like this:
God either created the world or at the very least is working through evolution and people to give it some order, but obviously God can’t fix everything, or he would if he was a loving God.
Jesus was the Son of God, died on the cross and rose from the dead for the sins of the world and his primary teaching was that we ought to love everyone. Jesus was more about love than rules.
God wants us to be happy and to feel good about ourselves.
We’re hopeful that the Bible has been translated with accuracy, but no one can be sure. Still it’s very helpful for teaching how we ought to live, but some of the moral rules that were true and worked thousands of years ago, may not be true today.
Good people who believe in God go to heaven when they die. However, the notion of hell for good people who believe other religions, or those who’ve never heard about God is inconsistent with the idea of a loving God.
While I personally believe Christianity is true, it’s arrogant to believe we have all the answers or Christ is the only way to God.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, is primarily about providing “therapeutic” benefits to its adherents. This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of living as a servant of a sovereign, divine God, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, or self-denial and self-expenditure on behalf of others.
Rather, it’s centrally about feeling good, happy, secure and at peace. One 15 year old Hispanic, and conservative Protestant girl from Florida expressed the therapeutic benefits of her faith in these terms: “God is like someone who is always there for you, I don’t know, it’s like God is God. He’s just like somebody that’ll always help you go through whatever you’re going through.” Another 17 year old evangelical says, “He just kind of stays back and watches, like he’s watching a play, like he’s a producer. He makes the play all possible and then he watches it, and if there’s something he doesn’t like he changes it.”
Is this a new religion?
This isn’t a new religion! It appears to operate as a parasitic faith. It can’t sustain itself, on its own; rather it must attach itself to established religious traditions, like Christianity, feeding on their doctrines and sensibilities. Their parents are happy that their kids are going to church and while they suspect the devotion of their children isn’t quite what they would like, at least they haven’t abandoned the faith. However, for all interests and purposes, most have.
So, if you’ve been wondering why you and your children are using the same words, perhaps even attending the same church, but there’s no passion for God, perhaps this is why. It’s not that they’ve thought all this out and have come to a logical decision to adopt these worldviews, but many have, unwittingly morphed into this counterfeit Christianity, or their friends have and it’s scary. As Paul said in II Timothy, this religion “has a form of godliness, but denies its power”.
Some questions for you to ask your children:
What questions about traditional Christianity do you or your friends find most confusing?
Please describe for me the God you believe in – what is he like? (When they give you answers, take a little time to probe a little deeper to find out what they really mean. Also, ask what their friends think.)
Do you believe there may be other ways to God except through faith in Jesus?
How do you think this world came about?
What do you believe about the Bible? Do you think it’s accurate, relevant, etc.? Do you know how we got it?
Do you think there are moral absolutes that have been and always will be true? Which ones? Which ones may no longer be true?
My question for you: What evidence do you see of MTD in your family or church?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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